The twin concept has fascinated human beings for centuries, especially identical twins. There is something intriguing around the awareness that, somewhere out there in the physical world, there is another version – to the naked eye – of yourself. In this vein, it’s also rather intriguing to think about having a ‘digital twin’ in the world of asset management.

‘Asset management made simple’ was a topic of discussion presented at Saphila 2017, the African SAP User Group’s (AFSUG) biennial conference for SAP users, which takes place at Sun City on 5 and 6 June 2017. The speaker, Eugenio Moya, is a SAP IoT Business Development Manager for the EMEA region. A digital twin is a dynamic software model of a physical thing or system that relies on sensor data to understand its state, respond to changes, improve operations and add value.

Moya clarified that asset management and operations have recently faced multiple challenges, including outdated technical documentation, no standardisation of information across parties and a lack of a complete and consumable asset information. He says, “With the Asset Intelligence Network solution from SAP, we bring an Asset Business Network, where information is shared and kept updated and made accessible across different parties.”

Moya points out that, in the arena of asset management, today’s challenges include paper-based technical documentation and outdated information; holding the information about the assets in silos; poor visibility of the asset’s performance; a low first visit fix rate, when external service providers don’t always know what to do; and more and more additional regulatory obligations, which can be particularly problematic if the knowledge is tied up with one person or area.

“However, today’s opportunities in tackling these challenges include the ongoing rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the lower costs of this technology. When we have a single source of truth we can leverage all these new technologies, including the power of big data, analytics, machine learning, connectivity and so on, and thus we can link the operator, the service provider and the OEM manufacturer. We do this by making a ‘digital twin’ to make the process simpler. A digital twin is a virtual image or representation of your asset, maintained throughout the asset’s entire lifecycle and easily accessible at any time from a single platform, providing powerful analysis, insights and diagnosis,” he says.

The digital twin is created through the use of SAP’s Asset Intelligence Network, offered under the umbrella of the SAP Leonardo offering and running in the SAP Cloud Platform. Information is shared between the asset manufacturer and the operator through the SAP Cloud Platform. The operator benefits, because the asset’s performance is as designed, while the feedback information goes to the manufacturer.

Moya says, “Every piece of equipment has one unique identifier associated with one master record as one single source of truth accessible by all relevant parties throughout its life cycle. When you start to share information, you also start to share all the benefits. The digital twin brings together sensory information, installation and service information, and sales and contextual information. The digital twin is intended to be there throughout the asset’s life cycle: engineering, production, installation and operation, through to decommission. The record is maintained in the cloud and in this way the digital world records what is going on in the physical world.”

Organisations are able to use digital twins to proactively repair and plan for equipment service, plan manufacturing processes, predict equipment failure or increase operational efficiency, and perform enhanced product development. There are benefits for the operators and asset manufacturers.

Operators are able to move away from multiple platforms and can establish one channel for many manufacturers and service providers. The manual asset search effort is reduced, as are the asset’s life cycle costs overall due to the receipt of notifications and service work summaries, for example.

In turn, asset manufacturers are able to get the information on the model and pass this on to all their customers. There is greater transparency around the equipment’s usage, and improved warranty and recall processes. They are able to offer one solution for many customers and improve customer relationships. The information offers the basis for planning future business models and ultimately allows the manufacturer to move away from selling a product to selling a service.

Moya adds that SAP offers the SAP Leonardo Jump Start Program for customers who wish to begin the process of creating digital twins for their assets. He says, “The SAP Leonardo Jump Start Program offers a pilot service that is designed to help customers generate a road map and a business solution. Asset insights allow the manufacturer to leverage the installed base in the business network to grow the aftermarket business. Performance analytics will improve the product’s performance by allowing operators to benefit from asset insights. The end result is the potential to create higher asset performance, and allow the manufacturer to manage equipment as a service.”